Attention all business owners, consultants, artists, freelancers – you can fire your client! We all like getting paid. Some of us do not even mind working to get paid. So why on earth would you walk from a situation in which you were getting paid great money, to do in your opinion, some great work. The answer is when you have a bad client. A lot new ventures, free lancers, artists and consultants especially, just want to get the work coming so they will put up with anything. But besides keeping you dignity in tack, firing your client can be good for your business.
1. Do not sign up for something you can not do –
This is not really a "when to fire scenario" but it is important enough to mention. I recently called a sales person over at software company about one of his packages. I explained my needs and wants and the first thing out of his mouth was,
"I can do A and B for you, but let me be honest with you, I cant really do C. If you like I can ask around and see if there is someone out there who can".
2. When the money gets funny –
This seems like a simple one, but a lot of people who are just starting out ignore things like billing. If a client is not paying you, you should not work. Granted do not leave them high and dry the next day, but it should be real clear that you are not working for free.
3. When the client is always late –
Maybe they are late to meetings or they do not even show up. Maybe they are late on sign off or on getting you the inputs you need to begin. Everyone has their own threshold for how much of this they can take. Discover your threshold and start sticking to it.
4. They are Liars –
That's harsh, but some people lie and its often not the lying thats problem, but more like omission. There are some key details that are being left out. If you start seeing patterns of this, you may want to "keep it moving".
5. When the real client is a client of your client's client –
If you have ever played the game of telephone, you know that messages that go through a lot of people often get distorted. One of the keys ingredients to a healthy client relationship – is managing the expectations. You have expectations of your clients and they have expectations of you. This is much easier to manage when you know who you are dealing with.
6. Changing the contract-
Ooh this is a tough one. Maybe they have decided that they are paying you too much or they want you to do this extra side thing that was not included in the contract. Or maybe the timeline gets cut in half or they pull resources and you still need to deliver. This is a fun one and it's a fine line to tread on. If you feel disrespect in anyway its time to revaluate the relationship. If the scales of the contract have made a strong shift in their favor you may need to "keep it moving".
7. When your cartwheels turn into back flips –
Some people have no clue what they want from you. They tell you they want X and now they want Y. So you adjust, you want a happy client right? Turns out they love it but now they want a few more bells and whistles. So you change it. They kinda of like it but now, they have thought about it and they really want the original X. On one hand that's part of the fun of being a consultant / freelancer. On the other hand, things can get out of control and this is when you need to manage to the contract.
The bottom line is about managing expectations and having clear and honest communication from the very beginning through the end of the project. If you see red flags, its best to address them from the very beginning. If things do not get better you may need to fire the client.
So how do you fire the client?
Document, Document, Document – First, you should always attempt to address and resolve the issue and this should always be documented. Be as concise and level-headed as possible.
Read your contract – Know what your options are for terminating the relationship and meet all of your obligations as best as possible.
Do not whine – Do not get extra emotional and discussing how bad your client is and do not deliver a list of the 99 things wrong with your client either. Keep is professional and …. "keep it moving".
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